Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How Economic Ignorance = Obama's Victory

As many of you know, every semester I start the first day with some sort of essay question designed to uncover socialist thinking among my students.  Over the years I have asked people to comment on everything from Joe Montana selling his mansion for $49 million while others are homeless to their opinion on what the government should do to help them achieve the American Dream.

This week I asked my students - approximately 110 of them - to answer this question:

"What one specific thing has President Obama done to make the American economy stronger?"

Out of all those who were surveyed many did the smart thing and left their answer sheet blank.

Three students simply wrote, "Nothing".

One wrote, "The extension of Bush's tax cuts which were slated to end in 2010 was a positive thing for our economy."

Here is what the rest wrote.  As always, I do not edit these answers for grammar or spelling.

"Obama has made taxes according to a households income/class.  He made things stronger for every class by doing that."

"President Obama has created jobs since he got elected in 2008.  Before him, the economy was suffering, especially middle class families. His campaign was focused alot on creating jobs. This accomplishment has benefited the economy greatly."

"President Obama has made it so that everyone must pay taxes and people who are more wealthy pays the most taxes."

"He has raised taxes on the rich and lowered taxes on the middle class.   Also, he has cut military funding."

"He has offered more financial incentives to the American family with his Cash for Clunkers campaign.  This lead for the American family to upgrade to a new car & supply buisness to the failing America car market."

"the Government, under Obama, has slowed the rate our countries US dollar was inflating at the end of Bush's terms."

"One specific thing that Obama has done to make this economy stronger is giving jobs all across the U.S. for the middle class."

"President Obama's stimulation package."

"President Obama has made bigger percentages of taxes that people have to pay for their money."

"He has tried to make America have more equal classes rather than the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and eventually diminishing the middle class."

"He has funded programs for the research of new alternative energy proving thousands of people job opportunities, and the possibility of the creation of a new type of energy market."

"President Obama has allow all ages to go back to school."

"Health care benefits has improved."

"Obama has made the country stronger by giving his best to try to stabilize the economy."

"Obama, in his early presidency, verbally excited Americans by the idea of change and this encouraged slight economic growth."

"One thing I believe President Obama did to make the country stronger is the stimulus check act."

"Tax cuts to overseas businesses to entice them to bring their work stateside."

"One thing Obama help improve the economy is to provide more jobs for the unemployed people."


And there you have it friends.  These are only a sampling of what is rattling around in the brains of our college students.  Imagine what even more ignorant Americans are probably thinking.

President Obama can take great comfort in knowing that we are a nation of economically-illiterate human beings armed with voter registration cards.  He will win in November.  No one wants to hear any sensible economics from Romney or Ryan. 

January 20, 2017 - that seems like a long way off....


  1. So sad but true. I'm so glad they're in your class. I'm sure when I entered your classroom, I had one of those crappy, ignorant answers too. Thankfully, I was enlightened. The one class in college that I actually learned from. Thanks for your community service! You have your work cut out for you!

  2. Kim,

    Thank you for your encouraging words. Many will be saved by the truth but they will be outnumbered, I am afraid, on election day.

  3. I agree that there is a lot of economic ignorance out there - I teach political science and often teach courses on political economy (international and comparative). Yet I'm dubious of associating that with any party or candidate In fact, to claim either party is "better" on economics is difficult, especially if you take into account the diversity of economic perspectives. I think if you gave a similar test in 2004 and replaced "Obama" with "Bush" you'd probably reach the same conclusion about Bush as you did with Obama. Moreover, it's a bit of a loaded question since on his own no President can do much, given our divided system of government.

    And as someone who does understand economics, I do not consider Romney and Ryan's plans to be "sensible" or likely to work. It's also interesting to see how much ignorance there is about economic policies in other countries. After all, conservatives support universal health care in Europe, and some of the strongest performing economies these days are in Scandinavia and Germany. So tying "sensible policies" to one particular ideology, left or right, is dubious.

  4. You can't really fault them because they are repeating what they read and hear daily. An Internet search for "Obama's accomplishments" lists numerous web sources.
    There are as many sources that argue the great benefits of our present administration as there are those that argue the total ineptness. Each side of the republican/democrat machine distorts everything about the other. Finding the truth is difficult.
    The answer is to learn and understand. Although I haven't taken any of your classes, I am utilizing your reading list, videos, and posts.

  5. Brutal. I guess we have the answer to Bush's infamous "IS our children learning?" question. But take heart, Mr. Chambless, your class will continue to unlock the minds of many.

  6. You know how some religions "witness", where they preach the word of God? I'm going to do the same thing, except where I'll carry around your books and preach the word of economics.

    1. Katie,

      Be prepared to be stoned.

    2. Oh, and to further depress you, today in my class at the University of South Florida, while we were talking about technology/texting and driving, she said and I quote here, "I think we need the government to set rules and restrictions on how long we can be on our phones or computers in a day, because we don't know how to put them down." Everyone proceeded to cheer how great of an idea this was. I am preparing to leave the country. -sigh-

  7. I should not have read this blog post today. How disappointing.

  8. The most interesting and scary thing about this post is not what the students have to say, but that the instructor gives them the prompt in order to "uncover socialist thinking" among them. Presumably, the course is designed strictly to show the students why "socialist thinking," whatever form that might take, is "wrong?" If they persist in such forbidden thinking, will they fail the course? As one who teaches at a large university, I'm appalled that an instructor could approach a course with such a one-sided view, no matter the topic. Isn't a college education about giving both sides of an issue a fair look? How ironic that so many of the books listed here on this site have "liberty" in the title, yet your attitude about learning seems to be that there's only one way in which to view economic policy.

    1. Mr. Kesler,

      I have been waiting for a long time to hear from someone with your background and opinion. Thank you very much.

      My response:

      Both sides? Surely, as a professor at a "large university" you know that it is almost illegal to be tilted towards free markets and limited government. It is a complete farce to say that we teach in a world of balance. 90% or more of us are far left, anti-capitalism, anti-free market liberals. Most of us cry and moan about balance only when someone like me shows up trying to balance the scales slightly away from liberal, socialistic dogma.

      Have you read my textbooks? I do cover much of what is wrong with "capitalism" and fully examine how many socialist nations have happier people than America. Would you like a copy to see for yourself or would you rather continue t judge me with limited information?

      There are many ways to look at economic policy. The beautiful thing about evidence and world history is that economic policy that is geared towards less government works and policies that are geared towards more government don't. It is pretty simple. So simple that even someone at a big university should be able to figure it out.

    2. Mr Chambless, I am not an economist. I teach writing courses. But what we teach isn't the issue here. It's your apparent attitude about teaching and learning that strike me. Your exasperation at what your new students say in response to your "socialist" fishing expedition, and your labeling them as ignorant, seem to suggest that those who have something positive to say about President Obama's policies are wrong from the start, and that your goal in "teaching" is to set them straight. You ask them a question not to learn what they might know about economics, but specifically to ferret out what evil thoughts Obama and his policies have implanted in their minds.

      Perhaps you are right about my colleagues who teach economics--perhaps many of them do espouse liberal views of the subject. But I'm not aware that any of them have blogs in which they openly denigrate the ideas of the students who might disagree with their way of thinking. To label your students as "ignorant" implies that there's only one way to approach the study of economics, and that sounds more like brainwashing and defensiveness than what the traditions of a college education would suggest.

    3. Since socialism led to horrific human suffering in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea and other countries the evidence would suggest that helping students learn economics means, in part, helping them learn about the history of socialism, why people are seduced by it and what the consequences would be for our economy.

      Yes, I do teach them about Obama and Bush and why their policies have been disastrous. They hear compliments of Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton. They also have heard me say a few good things about these presidents.

      Economics is a science. Science allows us to explore causes and consequences. Being ignorant means "lacking knowledge". It does not mean stupid. My students lack knowledge about what a horrible job Obama has done in the area of economics. My question for them is designed to help them see where their ignorance, not stupidity, is from, how to work through it and how to understand what economic policies do work.

      I am really not interest in the "traditions" of college education. I think we eggheads in the ivory towers have done more harm than good in many, many cases.

      You should be grateful that I represent the "diversity" that we eggheads keep saying is so important.

  9. After taking your class last semester I try to put out the massive flames of economic ignorance every time I have a chance.. and believe me it is so disappointing with this kind of ignorance rampant. I just wish my peers would actually question and challenge their spoon fed views once in a while. Good luck with this group of kids, I wonder how many will make it up to the final..

  10. Still contemplating on moving to New Zealand?